Only a fool discounts the events of the past and their effects on future actions. History not only serves to shape what we become, both as an individual and as a society, but also can be used to predict what might yet occur.
And if there’s one nation that has had to learn from the past but still move beyond it, it’s Armenia.
And where it would be easy to sweep history under the rug and move on, the nation has decided to showcase both its architecture and its stories.
As a continually inhabited settlement, Armenia has a history that dates back for thousands of years. The timeline is similar to that of many ancient societies, working its way through monarchies, religious influence, foreign occupation, and finally settling on a democratic system of government. Along the way, the people were subject to the whims of rulers, a series of wars, and a particularly gruesome three-year genocide.
Where many nations opt for a destroy/rebuilt mode of development, much of Armenia’s history has been preserved in the form of fortresses, palaces, monasteries, and temples. And with a well-planned trip, the visitor can explore many of the sites that contribute to Armenian identity.
As the nation’s capital, Yerevan is more than just a modern metropolis. With the massive Mount Ararat serving as a backdrop, the city is rich with modern culture and historic sites.
Erebuni Fortress Ruins
Before the region became the city of Yerevan, it stood as a kingdom of Urartu. Dating back to the 8th century BCE, many of the fortress’ ruins have been excavated and are open for exploration.
Centered around the remnants of a palace, the ruins of the fortress consist of stone walls, a massive hall complete with columns, and a lengthy inscription carved in stone. Mentioning Erebuni Fortress by name, the inscription dates back to the settlement’s inception.
Located on the site, The Museum of Erebuni provides a detailed look at the fortress’ history, displays a collection of excavated objects, and successfully illustrates how a culture once thrived on these barren lands.
Expect to pay about $1US to enter the facility.
A short drive south of Yerevan will have you arriving in the village of Garni, another important settlement for the Urartu kingdom. The quaint village holds many historic structures, with the oldest and most important being the Garni Temple.
Where once a fortress kept the site safely protected, the Garni Temple is now all that remains. Still very much intact, visits can walk around the base of the structure, admiring the 24 massive columns and the intricately-designed stone roof.
Beyond the temple are the ruins of a palace and a bath house. Though not quite as impressive as the still-standing structure, the sites are certainly compelling in their own right.
When To Go
If looking to avoid both the sweltering heat of summer and the frigid cold of winter, consider planning your trip to Yerevan for either the spring or the fall.
Temperatures for April, May, September, and October will range from lows of 43°F (6°C) to highs of 82°F (28°C). Expect rains to be more prevalent during spring months.
Getting There & Around
As the most obvious option, look to fly into Zvartnots International Airport which is located only a short distance from Yerevan.
Alternately, consider arriving by train from Tbilisi, Georgia or by bus from Istanbul, Turkey.
- Mid-range accommodations: $70-110
- Meal: $13-18
- Beer: $1
- Expect to be able to buy a visa at Armenia’s border.
- Eat traditional ‘lavash’ in the village of Garni.
- Tip at restaurants throughout Armenia.
- Spend too much time in the city. There is much to discover for those who venture away.
- Miss out on a tour of the Ararat Brandy Factory if you’re keen to wet your whistle.
- Discount hitch-hiking as a means for getting around.
- The area around Ararat is commonly considered one of the oldest continual settlements in the world.
- Armenia was part of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991.
- There are a slew of well-known personalities of Armenian descent including Cher and Jack Kevorkian.
Feature Image Credit: Hombit